Marko's family has lived in the same local village for at least 300 years, so his roots in Istria run deep, and his wife was also born in a nearby village. Marko's interest in wine started at a young age. As a small child, Marko would ride on his father's tractor while he worked their small 7.5 acre vineyard. His father sold the grapes to other local producers.
Prior to the Homeland War, his father's vineyard, and others in the region, were part of a cooperative. However, after the War, the cooperative dissolved and the vineyards were split into seven parts, which Vina Fakin would eventually try to purchase.
Marko graduated from wine school around 2010-2011, and he noted that it primarily taught you how to tend a vineyard during good conditions. Thus, you had to learn how to handle problems on your own as they came, gaining experience each year. He also stated that if you make a mistake on year, you have to ensure that you don't repeat it the next year. In winemaking, you only acquire experience once a year, rather than on a constant basis like other professions.
Marko started producing wines in 2010, using grapes from 10 acres of family vineyards, and made about 2000 bottles, 50% Teran and 50% Malvazija Istarska. He sold his wines at local farmers' markets, and used his garage as a tasting room. And he excelled from the start, winning a Croatian wine award for his Teran, and also was recognized as Winemaker of the Year.
Some of his vineyards have vines that are as much as 100 years old, some of the oldest vines in commercial use in the region. They have cut about 70% of the quantity of their red grapes, primarily Teran, to improve its quality. For example, they used to get yields of 5 kilograms but have drastically decreased that amount to 1/2 to 1 kilogram. His wines also have excellent acidity.
The winery produces about 50/50 red and white wines, and it has a capacity of 150,000 bottles, although they only produce about 120,000 bottles currently. He does have plans to construct a new winery, to make it larger. Marko's original plan was to produce only 50,000 bottles, but that has changed, and although Marko claims he is about at his limit now, it's certainly possible he could expand more in the future.
They have 10 labels, mostly Malvazija Istarska and Teran, although they have recently planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Syrah, to prove they can so. However, they will have to wait 5 years until wines with those grapes will be allowed on the market. One of Marko's goals is to make a "Super Istrian" blend, using Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Teran.
Marko also grows numerous olive trees, indigenous Croatian varieties, and produces about 1500 liters of olive oil each year.
He currently makes an Amarone-style Teran, commonly with grapes dried on vines, or sometimes on grass mats. He also makes a Teran Rosé. Marko doesn't grow Refosco even though it grows well in the region. Marko also noted that Teran pairs very well with the strong aromas of Istrian truffles.
We toured the winery, and Marko noted that they use French oak as well as Acacia barrels. The winery is small, and compact, so I can understand why Marko wants to construct a new winery, making it more spacious.
The grapes spent 50 days with skin contact & fermentation, and then the wine was aged in amphora for a year and then in used barrique for another year. Natural yeast was used, and the shape of the amphora helped to move around the yeast more easily. The wine isn't made very year, and prior vintages included 2011 and 2015, with planned releases for the 2020 and 2021 vintages as well.
With a 16% ABV, this is a big wine, yet not a powerhouse, being very well-balanced. It possesses an alluring aroma of black fruits and mild spice and a dark red, almost purple color. On the palate, it's dry and smooth, with good acidity, rich and complex flavors of ripe plum, black cherry, and blackberry, along with subtle spice notes. It has a long, lingering and pleasing finish, and is considered a young wine which will age very well. I was told that 2027 would be the prime time for drinking this wine. An impressive wine, even in its youth, and clear evidence of Marko's skills, as well as the vast potential of Teran.
I purchased a bottle of this wine, believing it was worth the price, and will let it sit in my cellar, waiting for 2027. Highly recommended, although it would likely be difficult for many people to obtain a bottle of such a limited edition wine.
mentioned previously, there are numerous feral cats in this area, hoping that diners will feed them. And sometimes they walk atop the wall, very close to the tables, so you need to keep an eye on them just in case they try to steal food off your plate. The cats are generally friendly, especially if you give them a taste of your food.
After lunch, we had some free time which I used to further explore Motovun. Later that evening, we returned to Konoba Fakin for dinner, with more truffles and wines.
Marko Fakin has certainly earned his excellent reputation as a wine maker, and it's great that he is concentrating his efforts on indigenous grapes, Malvazija Istarska and Teran. His passion for Teran is more than evident, and he is leading the way to show the vast potential of Teran. All wine lovers should learn more about Teran, and sample it if possible. Marko is a leader in the new generation of Croatian wine makers, and it was a pleasure to spend time with him, talking and sampling his wines. If you are in Istria, you definitely should visit his winery and check out his Konoba in Motovun.